Female footballers in England to get maternity cover after landmark ruling

The Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association have agreed a change to contracts that will see players in the English women’s game guaranteed maternity and long-term sickness cover.

As a result of the the recently-reached agreement, players at the 24 clubs across the Women’s Super League and Championship will all receive cover they were not previously entitled to.

Maternity pay has previously been at the discretion of clubs in England and abroad. Wolfsburg and Germany goalkeeper Almuth Shult became the only active Bundesliga player to also be a mother when she gave birth to twins in 2020.

‘There are few top female athletes that have children,’ she told DW last year. ‘It’s difficult. After taking a year off from your career you need to fight to get back into it. It’s hard work and there’s still a long way to go but I love my job so there was never a question about returning.’

The issue of maternity support for female athletes has been highlighted through USA international footballer Alex Morgan and tennis legend Serena Williams in recent years, both of whom put their sporting careers on hold after giving birth.

‘We’ve seen how long it has taken Alex Morgan, one of the best players in the world that probably has the best people around her and the best access to staff [to come back from having a baby],’ said former Watford striker Helen Ward at the time.

‘For everyone else you’ve got to think it’s going to take similar if not more. It’s a tough subject and one that needs a lot of work.’

During a Parliamentary debate on women’s football on Wednesday, meanwhile, Julie Elliott, the MP for Sunderland Central, said the change being implemented would be ‘a massive step forward’.

Elliott said: ‘The issue of maternity rights for players impacts on their lives hugely.

‘In research conducted by Dr Alex Culvin last year, players were quoted as saying they ‘need longer contracts so we feel more secure. I shouldn’t have to think I need to sign a four-year contract because I want to have a baby, so I know they’ll pay me’.

‘However, I understand that a new player contract has been agreed between the FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association that includes maternity cover and long-term sickness cover.

‘I understand that this is a standardised contract that would cover players playing in both the Women’s Super League and the Championship.

‘If that is accurate and is to be implemented, it will be a massive step forward for the status of women footballers and, more importantly, for the terms and conditions and employment rights that they experience.

‘I pay tribute to all those who have worked so hard in the game to get to this point.’

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